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Kriegsmarine Destroyers Part 3
Z Class Destroyers Z23 - Z30 Narvik Type

By: Daniel H. Jones

Shortly after the Von Roeders (1936 Type - Z 17-22) were ordered the decision was made to build a new class of super destroyers. The rationale for these ships was influenced by two factors, the need to deal with the superior numbers of British destroyers and the potential need to fight the French Navy which possessed several types of oversize and powerfully armed destroyers. As the design followed closely behind the Type 1936 and shared many of the same features, they were designated Type 1936A.

The 1936A (Narvik Type in western intelligence manuals), had the same general layout of the Z 17-22 ships except that the main armament would now be five 15cm guns. The forward two guns would be mounted in a large twin turret. The aft three would be single open backed mounts arranged as in previous German destroyer classes and like the French Fantasque class, (which had a profound influence on the German design). Bows were more flared and the hawse holes were replaced by cut outs and above deck stowage for the anchors. In the former B gun position, a pair of 20mm anti-aircraft guns were mounted.

The powerplants were still as unreliable as in the previous types and the tonnage increases resulted in a slight decrease in performance. The choice of gun was a mixed blessing. Although the weight of metal was equal to some light cruisers, the rate of fire was slow. Also, with the open single mounts, gun crew fatigue was high, the result of the need to hand load projectiles weighing over 125 lb. On a pitching deck in gale conditions, the gun crew efficiency dropped off alarmingly. The enclosed forward turret was power assisted and had labor saving loading devices but the design was larger, heavier, and more complex than originally planned. Turret production was slow and the ships were initially completed with a single open mount forward as the turrets were not ready. When the turrets were finally fitted they proved too heavy for the existing structures. Strengthening was added at the bows but this did little to improve seakeeping qualities. The extra topweight made the ships tend to roll heavily in any sort of sea.

The design was drawn up in 1935, laid down in 1938, but the first units were not completed until mid 1940. With so few destroyers being built and the somewhat leisurely pace of construction, changes were made as the series progressed. There was considerable variation in detail within the class. In 1942-43 the twin turrets became available and all except Z 26, (sunk in March, 1942) and Z 28, (a special design), were rearmed. Various changes in light antiaircraft mountings were made as the war progressed. Many of the ships received single and twin 37mm guns and quad 20mm "Flak Vierling" mounts. These were navalized versions of the standard Wehrmacht light AA weapons.

Z 28 was the "odd man out", different from all of the others. Designed from the outset as a flotilla leader, Z 28 mounted only four single 15cm guns. This was the only ship mounting a main gun in the B position. The aft deck house was much larger with expanded accommodations for the staff which altered her silhouette.

Building models of any of these ships is quite easy. The Skywave kit represents three of the second group of the Narvik class. Externally in layout, except for Z 28, they are almost identical to the first group ships featured here. Z-28 is the only one requiring extensive reworking and the modifications are really not difficult. The others are a matter of choosing the time period and armament variation. Early war ships will have the single 15cm gun forward, (an extra is included in the Skywave kit for this purpose), and the light AA armament as called for in the kit instructions. Note that the amidships AA battery platform must be cut down in plan view to match the shapes in the drawings. This will need to be done for ANY of the German destroyers. The kit part matches a surviving builder's plan, but no ship was actually completed this way. Mid war ships would have the twin turret, two quad 20mm "Vierling" mounts, fore and aft, B and X positions, and perhaps two 20mm singles at the bridge. The late war ships would have the AA increased as shown. Some units were sunk before receiving all of the additional AA and some were late in getting the upgrade due to material shortages. Photos are the best guide.

Two other details are worth noting. The Narvik class received degaussing cables fairly early in the war. Also note the rubbing strakes fitted on some hulls. There is quite a bit of variation here, consult the drawings and photos for the particular ship and time period.

1/700 Scale Drawings

Z-25 1941-42
Completed with a single gun forward as a temporary expedient awaiting the arrival of the twin gun turret
Z-28 1943
Odd man out, the only unit with a main gun at B position. Note large deck house aft for staff accommodation
Z-30 1941-43
Showing a rather odd feature, catwalks on the centreline over the torpedo tubes. This was an experiment that was apparently not repeated on other units
Z-25 1945
Showing complete AA upgrade Few units recieved this full refit due to material shortages. 8 37mm and 16 20mm guns are installed together with a second radar set aft of the second funnel and a third on the mast

This article originally appeared in Plastic Ship Modeler 1994/3 and is reprinted here with the permission of the author and editor.

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